Indonesia is well-known as a country with diverse ethnicities, religions, and races. Although 80 percent of the population is Muslim, Indonesia is not an Islamic state. Indonesia recognizes five religions, which are Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Indonesia’s constitution assures the right for all persons to worship according to his or her own religion. Indonesia has a strong history of coping with its diverse religions. However, incidents that involved religion have nevertheless occurred. The closure by force of more than two dozen churches in West Java by the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) in 2003, the conflict between Muslim residents and members of a Christian Batak Church, and the violent attack against followers of the Muslim Ahmadiyah sect are some examples. These indicate that something is amiss with regard to engagement among religious communities.
Indonesia today is not only a country with diverse religions, ethnicities, and races, but also a country with several challenges related to issues of religious pluralism. This report tries to describe how tolerance, pluralism (religious), and dialogue among members of religious communities in Indonesia have been promoted and improved. It also attempts to map the hindrances to religious pluralism in Indonesia.
Firstly, this report will explore the helpful aspects of emerging issues of religious pluralism in Indonesia, including the roles of government, individuals, and non-governmental organizations that work to enhance public awareness and understanding about how to engage with other members of other religious communities. Secondly, it will explore those aspects that hinder the efforts in promoting inter-religious harmony in Indonesia, such as the fatwas (Islamic decrees) of MUI (Islamic Ulama’ Council), and the rise of the Islamic fundamentalist movement.
—Agus Hadi Nahrowi, Pluralism Project Affiliate